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Vets describe wartime experiences to Gilford High School history students

GILFORD — World War II veteran Ray Doucet, formerly of Hudson, told students at Gilford High School Tuesday morning that he joined the military service in 1942 when he was only 15 and was faced with the choice of joining up or going to jail.
''I was living in Arizona then and I got in a fight. The police told me that if I joined the service I wouldn't end up in jail. So I told my mother that from now on I was 18 years old and signed up,'' said Doucet, who says he couldn't qualify for the Army because he was color blind, but passed the Air Force physical.
''By the time I was 16, I was in North Africa with the 15th Air Force in the Signal Corps. We were sending up A-38s to bomb Rommell's North Africa Corps out in the desert,'' says Doucet. (The A-38 was an earlier version of what would become the famous P-51 Mustang.)
Doucet said that he later went on to serve in Italy and that one of the highlights of his time in the service was getting to see the Vatican while in Rome.
''It was an experience I would never have had any other way,'' said Doucet of his military service which covered a span of five years.
Doucet was one of a half dozen residents of the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton who attended a special program at the school which was hosted by the Gilford High School Student Council and attended by high school history students.
''It was really interesting to hear the veterans describe what their lives were like while serving,'' said Student Council President Lindsey Corsack, who moved between the guests asking questions which they answered over a portable microphone.
Marjorie Rosenqvist, originally from Wisconsin, said that she recalled living in a Florida barracks while in the Army in unbearably hot weather and that both officers and enlisted men had to do KP (kitchen patrol).
''There was a fantastic PX there where you could buy just about anything you wanted,'' she recalled.
Barbara Fay, who spent most of her life in Florida before moving to New Hampshire earlier this year, recalled that she used to live in her own trailer while on base but always had to report to general quarters both morning and night for roll call.
''The service was nice. It worked out well for me,'' said Fay.
Ray Barcomb of Goffstown, who served in Vietnam, said that his most vivid memory of war was the loss of one of his best friends on Christmas Eve, 1968, shortly after his unit arrived in the country.
''He was big guy, 6'6'' ,who weighed 250 pounds and we played tackle football a lot. I still miss him,''
said Barcomb, who was a generator mechanic.
''It was 130 degrees in the shade in Vietnam, so bad that we'd do anything to cool off. I found an air conditioner unit and fixed it up so that I could turn it on whenever I needed to sleep. A lot of other guys wanted to use it but I told them 'I found it and hooked it up and it's mine,' '' said Barcomb.
Francis Gorski of Manchester served on Okinawa during World War II. ''It was the last big battle of the war. It took all the different armed forces working together to win it,'' said Gorski, who recalled that he was still on Okinawa when the two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing the war to an end.
He later got to see the bombed cities and said the sights that he saw were too ugly to describe.
John Noonan of Manchester served in the Navy during World War II and said that he recalls his ship tracking down a Japanese submarine trying to make its way into Pearl Harbor just before Japanese airplanes attacked on December 7, 1941.
He later served in the attacks on the Solomon islands and New Guinea and recalls his ship being under attack by Japanese kamikaze aircraft during the later stages of the war.
''It wasn't a lot of fun in the Navy. It was war all the time,'' said Noonan.



Residents of the New Hampshire Veterans Home spoke with students at Gilford High School Tuesday morning about their military service. Shown seated at the table are Barbara Fay, Franicis Gorski, Ron Barcomb, John Noonan and Ray Doucet. Student council members and history class students spoke with the veterans with Student Council President Lindsey Corsack, standing beside Noonan as he speaks, asking a series of questions which the veterans answered. (Roger Amsden/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 02:20

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Hands Across the Table hosts first diner at temp location

LACONIA — Hands Across the Table (HATT), now in its second full year of providing a free community dinner every Tuesday, held its first event in its temporary home at the St. Andre Bessette Parish Parish Hall on Gilford Ave. last night.
The non-profit organization had been holding its weekly meals at the former St. James Episcopal Church, now the location of the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region, until recent vandalism forced the facility's temporary closure.
Fr. Marc Drouin of the St. Andre Bessette Parish offered the organization the use of its facilities and Kyril Mitchell, president of the Hands Across the Table board of directors, said it was greatly appreciated.
''We knew they were in the middle of the repair process at the club and wanted to be out of their way while they completed it,'' said Mitchell, who expects that it will be some time in January before Hands Across the Table will be back at its old location.
Last night about 85 people showed up for the meal, soup, lasagna, vegetables and dessert, despite a winter storm which moved in late in the afternoon.
''This is all the work of volunteers,. We have about 200 people we can call on' said Mitchell, who says that Hands Across the Table receives assistance from 10 local churches, eight clubs and organizations and additional contributions of food and funds by area banks, retail food businesses and several anonymous donors.
Dinner service is performed by the volunteers whose goal is to make each Tuesday dinner a body and soul satisfying event for the attendees.
In rotation, each of the sponsoring churches and organizations is responsible for a dinner including the food preparation, service and clean up. It takes more than a dozen volunteers to complete a weekly service that always includes a greeter, dining room manager and multi-course table service.
Dinners are planned around quality menus, including beef stew, chicken cacciatore, meatloaf, corned beef , appropriate side dishes, vegetarian dishes and of course, desserts.
Mitchell says that Chef Lou Gaynor and Assistant Chef Tammy Fontaine are always creative in their use of ingredients and focus on planning nutritious meals with an emphasis on high quality protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
''Each meals costs $1.69. That covers not only the food, but all our other expenses, including insurance,'' says Mitchell. He says that after everyone is served seconds are offered and that leftover food is packaged so that those at the meal can bring it home with them.
''We served over 6,000 meals in our first year and have developed a large group of people who show up just about every week. And it's not just the food, but also about the friendships and sense of community these meals help create,'' says Mitchell.
Among the regulars at the meal are Matthew and Cindy Grady, whose 5-year-old son, Jayden, who attends kindergarten at Elm Street Elementary School, provided some entertainment at Tuesday night's meal by singing ''Santa Claus is Coming to Town'' and several other Christmas songs.
''It's just like family to us here. We love the people we've met and got to know since we've been attending these dinners'' said Cindy Grady.
Matthew Grady says that his son loves to sing and play the guitar and that the meals provide a real sense of community for all those taking part.

Gaynor said ''It's wonderful that Fr. Marc Drouin was able to offer us facilities to feed our guests who look forward to this hot meal each week. We are serving greater numbers of guests each week and during the cold weather and holidays it is even more important that we make the weekly dinner available to all who wish to attend. We look forward to returning to our friends and hosts at the Boys and Girls Club as soon as repairs are completed."
Hands Across the Table will hold its second meal at the Parish Hall on New Year's Eve and is gearing up for a big crowd to come through the doors for the 5 p.m. meal.


Kitchen crew for Hands Across the Table at it first meal at St. Andre Bessette Parish Parish Hall, where the weekly Tuesday night night meal has temporarily relocated, were Pam Lapointe, Debbie Frawley Drake, Chef Lou Gaynor, Don Morin and Assistant Chef Tammy Fontaine. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)


Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 02:11

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Construction manager hired to complete LHS renovation projects

LACONIA — The tentative scope of the $1.8 million renovation of the high school made possible by a federal grant administered through the state Department of Eduction is to sprinklered the entire building and replace the ventilation systems in the center portion of the building where there are no windows, in the library, and in the auditorium.

The above three ventilation systems were included in the original Huot Center renovation project but had to be eliminated for cost reasons.

School administrators said they will also hire local engineering contractor Rist-Front, Shumway to do the engineering.

RFS, said School Business Administrator Ed Emond to the Facilities Committee of the School Board last night, was the firm for the recently completed Huot Center project and was intimately familiar with the LHS campus already.

The school will use a "construction manager" system of project management this time around, using Harvey Construction of Bedford.

Harvey will bid individual components of the job with oversight from the school administration.

Emond said this made sense because the project has a short time frame — it will begin in April of 2014 and hopefully be done by September of 2014. School Board members agreed.

School officials said they would meet with state and local fire officials to see if the entire building must be sprinklered. If not, they may re-purpose some of the no-interest loan to ventilation.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 02:03

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3rd piece of Snake River west bank offered for conservation easement

MEREDITH — The grant of a third conservation easement promises to forestall development along nearly the entire west bank of the Snake River, which runs for little more than a mile between Lake Winona and Lake Waukewan, enhancing protection of the quality of the town's water supply.

Speaking to the Board of Selectmen at a workshop this week, Mark Billings, chairman of the Conservation Commission, said that Donald and Patricia Bergeron of New Hampton have offered to 5.09 acres, with 720 linear feet of riverbank, of their 11-acre property, to the town as a gift in memory of Donald's mother. The town of New Hampton will take ownership of the land while the Meredith Conservation Commission would hold the conservation easement.

Billings described the property as a wetland that would not support either development or recreation. "It is not a buildable lot," he said.

The partnership between the two towns mirrors the arrangement for owning and managing two other properties along the river. In 2010, the towns, together with the Waukewan Shore Owners Association, which is now known as the Windy Waters Conservancy, purchased 8.57 acres with 2,841 feet of frontage on the river from Jacqueline Spear. Earlier this year the partners acquired 8.1-acres with 1,480 feet of shoreline abutting the Spear property to the south, formerly owned by Elizabeth Clingan Baird, with a $100,000 grant from the Aquatic Resources Mitigation Fund administered by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services and $30,000 in matching funds. Like the Bergeron bequest, New Hampton owns both the Spear and Baird properties, on which the easements are held by the Meredith Conservation Commission.

With the Bergeron property , which abuts the Spear property to the north, some 5,000 feet of contiguous riverfront will be protected in perpetuity. Meanwhile, Center Harbor has designated the west bank of the river as a prime wetland, affording it protection under state law. Billings explained that the Meredith Conservation Commission has contributed $10,000 toward developing a stewardship plan for all three of the parcels on the west bank of the river.

Apart from heavy runoff and rains in the spring, the Snake River, which is choked with vegetation, flows sluggishly, making navigation challenging. However , Billings stressed that the river serves as a filter, capturing impurities that flow into the Lake Winona watershed, which sprawls over 3,317 acres.

Selectman Herb Vadney noted that the riverbank lies in New Hampton and questioned why Meredith would "get entangled" in the project. Selectman Nate Torr, who chairs the board, replied that "this is a partnership, not an entanglement" while Billings said the conservation easements held by Meredith ensured that this source of the municipal supply would forever be safeguarded from development.

At town meeting in 2009 the voters of Meredith authorized the Conservation Commission to contribute to qualified organizations to purchase property as well as to apply its funds to acquiring land beyond the town lines.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 01:54

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